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Open up more housing on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, says advocate

Last Updated Oct 2, 2020 at 10:03 am PST

FILE - Fencing surrounds a portion of a homeless camp at Oppenheimer Park as a man disassembles a tent, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, on Wednesday, May 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Summary

One way to prevent people from camping out in parks would be open up more housing on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside

Four single-room-occupancy buildings currently sit empty, says advocate

Average rents in private SRO stock increased by 16 per cent in the last four years: report

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — One way to prevent people from camping out in parks would be to open up more housing on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, according to one advocate.

Sarah Blyth, founder of the Overdose Prevention Society, says in a tweet that four single-room-occupancy buildings currently sit empty: The Regent, The Stanley, The Balmoral, and now The Shaldon Hotel.

“People say, ‘Well, we can’t have people in parks.’ Well, we really need to create housing. More and more people are living outside. We definitely need a lot more housing, for everyone.”

She figures those four buildings alone could house around 500 people.

“You know, if we don’t give people housing in the Downtown Eastside, they’re going to live in parks. I know people who sleep in different parks every night and, you know, they’d rather not do that.”

Blyth adds COVID-19 has only made the housing problem worse.

“You know, when you lose your job, it’s hard to pay for housing. You know, all of these things become more difficult and more uncertain for people so housing is a huge thing,” she said.

The housing on the Downtown Eastside that does remain has become increasingly unaffordable.

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A report headed to council on Monday finds, average rents in private SRO stock increased by 16 per cent in the last four years, while the number of rooms renting at twice the shelter rate has doubled too.